BARNESVILLE - Never has a 30-degree wind chill felt so inviting for John Patrone and his Bellaire Big Reds.
Bellaire showed total disregard for the elements, compiling 15 hits en route to an 11-5 pounding of host Barnesville in a OVAC 3A semifinal matchup Monday at City Park.
The Reds won for a 12th time in 20 starts and will oppose either Buckeye Trail or Shenandoah for a conference title Saturday at Steubenville's Vaccaro Field.
"One of our goals coming into the season was to qualify for the OVAC Tournament," an obviously pleased Patrone said. "We've struggled at times to generate consistent hitting but (Monday) we went out and put it all together. Our kids are excited to advance and so are the coaches."
The loss dropped D.J. Butler's Shamrocks to 10-7 with regular- season action remaining prior to the start of Ohio postseason play.
"We're disappointed because we know we can play better," Butler said. "We'll get back to work and get ready for sectionals. That's where all our focus is directed now."
Early deadlocks ensued at 1-1 and 2-2 before Bellaire flexed its muscles, batting around in the top of the fourth and scoring five times.
Third baseman Hunter Westlake clubbed a two-run single. A Spencer Badia ground ball brought home another tally. Nick McMahon and Nick Patrone capped the uprising with run-scoring base knocks.
Barnesville answered with two runs in the last of the fourth. Designated hitter David Brown singled home teammate Mason Plumly and Auston Hannahs' sacrifice fly reduced the hosts' deficit to 7-4.
Bellaire, however, retaliated immediately, adding a fifth-inning three-spot for 10-4 command. Leftfielder Bralen Snell slugged a one-out double. After centerfielder Manny Ray was hit by a Zack Dornon pitch, Westlake stepped in and sent a Dornon offering over the fence in left and the Reds were in command.
"That's a season-high in hits and it definitely came at the right time," Bellaire's skipper added. "Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going."
McMahon registered the mound decision in relief of Nick Patrone. The duo combined for 12 Ks and nine walks.
Westlake hammered three hits and totaled five RBIs. Snell, Badia, Dalton Conroy and Tyler West enjoyed multi-hit performances.
Zack Dornon suffered the mound loss with Ian Wells coming on in the fifth. The duo teamed for four strikeouts and one walk.
Catcher Preston Dornon drilled a double and single, good for two Shamrock runs batted in. Second baseman Nate Wehr socked a single and double.
Bellaire was scheduled to host Cameron this afternoon. Barnesville has a Wednesday road test at Shenandoah.